The word “ileus” comes from the Greek word “ileos” . It is a condition where there is a bowel blockage for a period of time.
There is bowel distension, abdominal pain and vomiting of dark bowel contents with a fecal smell. Along with this comes toxemia (blood poisoning), dehydration and if neglected shock and sepsis.
The examining doctor will fail to hear the normal bowel sounds on auscultation of the abdomen. Distended bowel loops can be seen on plain X-rays of the abdomen (thanks to www.medscape.com for this image). Often ileus happens post-surgically after intraabdominal surgery. However, in a newborn it can also happen due to thickened meconium.
The stomach and the small bowel recover usually within 24 hours after surgery. However, the large intestine takes much longer to recover its peristalsis, in the order of up to 72 hours. This then leads to a backing up of the bowel contents at the level of the colon.
The mainstay of therapy is decompression and this is done by providing continuous nasogastric suctioning through a nasogastric tube hooked up to a vacuum machine.
No food intake is given until the bowel sounds reappear and the patient passes gas. The potassium level is being monitored as a low potassium level could also contribute to the ileus. Intravenous fluids are given to treat the dehydration. When the patient starts to pass gas, the diet is gradually built up from fluids to a full diet over a period of three days.
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